Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – September 4, 2015

leave a comment »

By: Amanda Whiting, Ph.D.

Scientific Publishing

Fake Peer Review Scandal Shines Spotlight on China

On August 18th, Springer, one of the world’s largest academic publishers, announced that it was retracting 64 articles from 10 of its journals after the discovery that those papers were associated with fake email addresses and that “subsequent internal investigations uncovered fabricated peer review reports”. The fake addresses led back to study authors writing their own peer reviews and to peer review “services” which sold names and contact information for fake experts with positive reviews. The latest aspect of this controversy is that nearly all of the retracted papers were authored by Chinese academics, based on a search for retracted papers on Springer’s site. While William Curtis, executive vice-president for publishing, medicine and biomedicine at Springer said that the retractions “do not offer a representative picture of the quality and ground-breaking research being published by researchers in China”, other researchers recognize the pressure many academics are under to publish at all costs. “We don’t think that Chinese researchers are any worse than anybody else. But what we know is that the pressure to publish — for example in Western journals — is enormous in China,” said Dr. Charlotte Haug, vice-chair of the U.K.-registered Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Publishers are starting to implement polices to help prevent this type of abuse of the peer review system, such as no longer allowing authors to suggest reviewers for their own papers and mandating that peer reviewers communicate through institution-based email addresses only. (Felicia Sonmez, Wall Street Journal)

Biomedical Research and PMI

Giant study poses DNA data-sharing dilemma

Next month, a working group run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) is set to release a project plan and observers are keen to find out the answers to one really big question – how much information about disease risk (including genetic data) will the project share with the people who participate? PMI aims to collect health data including genomic information, health records and physiological measurements from up to 1 million people in order to have a large cohort to study how genetics, environment and lifestyle influence disease risk and the effectiveness of treatments. Within this large amount of data could be trends that influence disease treatments for public health as a whole, but it could also include more specific information about individual participants and diseases/conditions they never even knew they had. Proponents of data-sharing believe that participants should at least be given the option of seeing their own data, truly making them “active partners in the process” of research, as it would allow them to further investigate findings related to their own health. Opponents believe that it would be irresponsible to just dump data onto people since the raw information can be challenging to interpret and of uncertain significance. If data sharing does go ahead, it raises new challenges such as how to actually share the data, what level of quality the data must be at to be shared (for clinical decision making vs. research), and whether data on deceased patients could be released to their families. Given the size and profile of the PMI, the decisions of this working group could have a significant effect on how biomedical research on human cohorts is conducted in the future. (Sara Reardon, Nature News)

Drug Policy

F.D.A. Warns 5 Producers of Powdered Caffeine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that it has sent warning letters to five producers of pure powdered caffeine over concerns of public safety and overdose risks. While caffeine is legal substance that can be found naturally in coffee and tea and is added in small amounts to gum and energy drinks, a teaspoon of pure caffeine is equivalent to approximately 28 cups of coffee and a tablespoon’s worth can be lethal. According to the FDA’s statement from September 1st, “the difference between a safe amount and a toxic dose of caffeine in these pure powdered products is very small.” The statement goes on to say that “safe quantities of these products can be nearly impossible to measure accurately with common kitchen measuring tools.” Bulk powdered caffeine has been linked to the deaths of two young men in otherwise good health in 2014. Laura MacCleery, regulatory affairs director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest consumer advocacy group, celebrated the move by the FDA and hoped that this was merely the first step towards a product ban. In explaining the dangers of bulk purified caffeine she said that “[p]eople assume something this dangerous would not be sold to consumers in this form. They are used to seeing warning labels and childproof caps on aspirin. And this is just a zip-lock bag.” (Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)

Have an interesting science policy link?  Share it in the comments!

Advertisements

Written by sciencepolicyforall

September 4, 2015 at 9:00 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: